Sean McVay’s once-formidable Rams offense now a predictable mess

The second-quarter play call was about as telling as any statistic, a quarterback keeper in second and third places.

Matthew Stafford moves about as fast as Bay Area rush hour traffic, and was this the best option?

Regardless, the ride was kept alive by an assault penalty on the next descent. The Rams were desperate.

Four games into the season and Sean McVay still looks like he hasn’t recovered from his boozy Super Bowl save. The offensive revolutionary is suddenly a .500 trainer, his once feared attack now painfully predictable.

That predictability became the Rams’ undoing Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in a 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which they finished off when Talanoa Hufanga leapt in front of a pass intended for Cooper Kupp and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

As if there was a chance Stafford would throw the ball to someone else when the game was at stake.

The Rams have Kupp and not much else on offense.

Where was Allen Robinson signed to replace Robert Woods?

Where was Cam Akers or Darrell Henderson or any semblance of ground play?

Most importantly, where was McVay who elevated this once-deserted franchise to a championship?

“It was a fight overall,” said McVay, whose team is now 2-2.

The Rams hit the red zone three times and had just three field goals, making this only the fourth time a McVay-managed team failed to score a touchdown.

“There were some bad play calls,” McVay said. “I put us in some bad spots.”

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (right) snags an interception and returns it for a touchdown against the Rams.

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (right) snags an interception and returns it for a touchdown against the Rams.

(Godofredo A. Vasquez / Associated Press)

The lack of imagination wasn’t limited to plays near the goal-line, as the Rams didn’t register a single play for 20 yards for the first time in 15 years.

The 49ers halted their defense to prevent Kupp from making big plays, and McVay was unable to adapt.

Of Stafford’s 48 attempted passes, 33 went to either Kupp or Tyler Higbee.

When Robbie Gould’s 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter put the 49ers 17-9 up, the Rams responded with three-and-out possession.

During the third-down play, Stafford threw the ball over the left touchline to Kupp, who was double-marked. The passport was incomplete.

The Rams had another chance when Gould missed a 32-yard kick with 8 minutes and 38 seconds left, only for them to resort to some unsurprising plays.

A short run from Henderson. A quick pass to Higbee. Another short pass to Higbee. A pass in the middle to Kupp.

Finally a pass to Kupp on the right side of the field, which was intercepted by Hufanga.

“Having three good drives and only getting nine points in a game that was a back-and-forth battle like this, that’s what makes the difference in the end,” McVay said.

Stafford has been sacked seven times. The injury-plagued offensive line is a mess – Coleman Shelton, who switched from guard to center, was the latest casualty – but McVay said that shouldn’t be taken as an excuse.

“We have to play better,” McVay said. “The things we didn’t do to carry them out … a lot of them were things that the guys we relied on didn’t do what we were supposed to do. Of course that makes me think I need to do a better job and we need to do a better job as an attacking staff to bring clarity to our players for many [missed assignments] that happened tonight.”

The 49ers have won their last seven regular-season encounters against the Rams, and as familiar as Kyle Shanahan is with McVay, that can’t be used as an offensive defense either.

The Rams scored just 10 points in their season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Their win in Arizona last week was a credit to their defense as they also struggled in the red zone that game as Robinson let a certain touchdown slip through his hands and Akers fumbled at the goal line.

Robinson has caught just nine passes in four games. Akers ran 118 yards and Henderson 118 yards.

Stafford has passed just four touchdowns. Six of his passes were intercepted.

Perhaps most worryingly, they were outplayed 44-3 by their opponents in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t know how to fix this other than getting back to work,” McVay said. “Everyone needs to be able to look within.”

The team’s journey to the Super Bowl began with McVay. The return will also have to start with him.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-10-03/sean-mcvay-once-formidable-offense-rams-49ers-nfl Sean McVay’s once-formidable Rams offense now a predictable mess

Emma Bowman

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